I’ve been on Australian turf for 11 days. In a way, it feels like a lot longer, until I try to catch a train in Melbourne and realize I have no idea which one I need.
Getting to Sydney.
I left Fiji in the afternoon, on a very clear and sunny day. We got 30 minutes from landing in Sydney as the pilot did his prepare for landing speech you know… “all seats and tray tables in the upright position” and without missing a beat proceeds to say “Sorry folks, we’re not landing in Sydney, due to unsafe weather conditions we are being rerouted to Brisbane.” Um, what? How could MY Australia not have perfectly ideal weather conditions on the day I arrive?
Turns out it was a freak storm with thunder and lightening to boot. So we flew an hour north to Brisbane, took a look around, landed, refueled and flew back to Sydney. By the time we got back to New South Wales it was dusk. We did a nice loop over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House and I could barely contain myself. All of the fear and excitement of the past few months came out and I was finally here, where I was suppose to be.
My friend Lisa in Sydney, who was so kind and welcoming and inviting me into her home for my week stay had been flight tracking and when I got the free airport wi-fi had a message waiting saying “finally, you landed, see you soon!” The next step was immigration and customs where I was a little worried the matter of funds would come out. But, nope, “Welcome to Australia” and he stamped my passport immediately and in I was.
The first week in Sydney was full of ups and downs internally. It was great to finally be in a new country and see my old friend, but then I got sick. My tonsils were not happy with all the weather change and traveling so they swelled up and required me to go to the doctor after a full day in bed sweating out a fever. The Dr. who was less than mediocre, assured me as an American I was overmedicated and my “illness” wasn’t that severe. All of this he said after writing me a prescription and before actually looking into my mouth.
Sydney was a lot of things – one of which was a little disappointing. Now, I don’t want to start any sort of great debate about the quality of city that Sydney is (or isn’t) but MY OPINION is that is is just like any other big city. It actually reminded me a lot of Toronto.
There were a few moments of feeling down when I would aimlessly walk the streets of Sydney in hopes of stumbling across something unique or amazing, but couldn’t find anything other than shopping outlets and the unattractive rush of the young professionals scurrying about the city. Since being ill took a lot of my energy away in order to heal my body I wasn’t up for hour after hour of long, wandering walks. So I went to the Opera house and bridge, went to Darling Harbour and went to Newtown at night for the bar scene. Newtown reminded me a lot of Brooklyn: hipsters all around.
I think I was eager to get to Melbourne, the town I had unofficially planned to settle in. The very early morning arrived when I was to fly to Melbourne and I was excited. I had planned the whole day out – shuttle from the airport to the train station, taxi to the hostel (what a treat!), settle in and then head over to inner Melbourne to meet my friend Nicole.
All went as planned, exciting and new, like a shiny new toy Melbourne was. Figured out the trains to meet my friend and spent the day walking around, adjusting to the Australian mecca for culture. For dinner we met some of her work friends and I had a first go with Korean BBQ. Obviously, it was a wonderful day and night and everyone was fabulous and it was fun to meet great new people straight away.
Then on Friday I met another friend, Brett, for the first AFL (Australian Football League) game of the season. This was a great experience! Exactly a mix between American football, baseball and a little basketball thrown in and basically all just a reason to go drink. Another night that was pure joy and we ended up staying out until about 4am. I met Brett 6 years ago when I worked at a hostel in the East Village of New York City. So it was appropriate that we had one of those nights that started off slow and ended at a seedy karaoke bar downtown.
Melbourne, for me has been peppered with great experiences. As a city, I have yet to be overwhelmed by the power or energy of it, however, I think at this phase in my travel experience I have to let go of hope that any other city will match the pure electricity one feels when then move to NYC – for the first time.
So I’m trying to let go of expectation for a certain kind of experience. I know this city has a lot to offer. Since the resurfacing of the Wanderlust Itch the goal was not Australia – the goal was Asia, however I had to come to Australia for something first. I’m not sure what. It may just be that after years and years of working in the hospitality industry and meeting so many Australians there comes a point when you just have to come, touch ground and see for yourself.
It is quite like the states in a lot of ways. Silly differences are what makes it different. I remember walking around Chicago the first few weeks I was there, just completely out of my element because I didn’t know what anything meant, in Chicago terms. The same applies here, you don’t know a city until you can equate certain areas with certain experiences that don’t include instances of chance.
Traveling is hard. You are away from home, your comfort zone, your known and into a world where everything is different. You’re in a constant state of high alert. I can walk down the streets of Chicago, New York or LA and I can sense when I’m lost or in danger, but your senses are not the same in a foreign city. So there is an adjustment period that is needed, and that’s where I am. In the adjustment zone.
Figuring out up from down, or in my case north from south. I am hostel hopping for 3 days, three different hostels, but I am excited because tomorrow I am hoping to be in a hostel I can unpack for a full week or two. I don’t remember how to be a tourist. I don’t feel like a traveler. I’m a sojourner: temporarily here. Like in life, everything is temporary, nothing is permanent. So that is the life of the traveler, a constant state of temporary circumstances.
Maybe I don’t travel to find a reason to go home, but I travel to find a reason to go on.
2 thoughts on “The Sojourner Truth”
I remember you from the Chicago getaway hostel. It was Arlington international when I worKed there. I’m glad to see and hear about your new adventures. Chicago and I miss you. Hope you are having a blast..
Duffy–It’s been 20 years since I was in Sydney, but I remember thinking it was a lot like San Francisco, especially down by the harbor. Perhaps much has changed since then. Before you head off to wherever is next, give Sydney another look. When you are sick, nothing is as good as it can be. Stay safe, have fun. I’m looking forward to your next post.